Get the latest from TODAY
Sir Patrick Stewart and his newest leading lady, a foster dog named Ginger, seemed headed toward forever. But a law banning pit bulls got in the way.
They frolicked in the pool, they napped together on the couch, their smooches burned up the screen — Stewart and Ginger had what certainly looked like a love story for the ages.
Ginger is a former shelter dog who'd been taken in by a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Wags and Walks. She came to live with Stewart and his wife, the musician Sunny Ozell, in early March — Stewart had developed an interest in pits while working with the the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on the group's #GetTough anti-dogfighting campaign.
The couple immediately began posting photos and videos to social media showing they were instantly smitten with the dog — Ozell described Ginger as an "angel in fur" — and Ginger was obviously besotted right back.
This led to weeks of "will they or won't they" speculation, by folks who hoped the couple would adopt Ginger for good.
Unfortunately, that speculation ended this week, when Stewart told PEOPLE that he and Ozell "fell in love," but would not be adopting Ginger — because the United Kingdom, where the family lives for part of the year, does not allow pit bulls.
Under the UK's Dangerous Dogs Act, pit bull terriers, and several other types of dogs, may not be owned, bought or sold.
This kind of breed-based dog regulation is known as breed-specific legislation, or BSL — there are hundreds of cities and counties in the United States with similar laws. These laws are intended to improve public safety, but according to every reputable group that has studied the issue they do not achieve that goal.
"Many municipalities have passed BSL in an attempt to reduce dog bites and attacks, but there is no evidence that they work," Kevin O'Neill, vice president of state affairs for the ASPCA, told TODAY in an email. "The ASPCA recommends that communities enact more progressive, well-rounded 'dangerous dog laws' that address individual animals and owners, not blanket breed bans."
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has long advocated for the end of the UK's pit bull ban.
"It is not effective at protecting public safety and seriously impacts on the welfare of hundreds of innocent dogs every year," RSPCA dog welfare expert Samantha Gaines told TODAY. (In fact, the BBC found that some 5,000 dogs had been seized by law enforcement in just three years — and not because the dogs had done anything wrong.)
As heartbreaking as it is that Stewart and Ozell can't adopt Ginger, Gaines said one possible silver lining is drawing attention to the law that's keeping these star-crossed companions apart — and invigorating the movement to scrap BSL in the UK.
"It’s so sad that a rescue dog is missing out on a wonderful, loving new home due to an outdated piece of legislation," Gaines said. "Her story shows just how unfair and unjust this law is."
Wags and Walks founder Lesley Brog says that she is thankful that Stewart and Ozell gave Ginger such a good home, if only for a spell.
"They were wonderful fosters, and got her ready for her deserving forever home," Brog said.
Ginger is in another foster home now, while Brog sorts through the many, many applications that have come in, from folks who want to adopt — and who live in jurisdictions where that is allowed.
“We know she is going to be safe, happy, content and having a great life," Stewart told PEOPLE. "We know now without any doubt that Ginger will find a marvelous home."